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The Buck Stops Here

This past week, Southwest Florida received yet another acknowledgement (the second in as many weeks) that our market—along with other once-battered Florida real estate markets—is spearheading the nation’s real estate recovery.

24/7Wall Street, a web site for global investors, awarded Sarasota-Bradenton-North Port the top spot on its top-ten ranking of “The Cities Where People Really Want To Buy Homes.”  The week before, Realtor.com—the web site of the National Association of REALTORS—ranked our market fifth on its list of the nation’s “Top Ten Turnaround Markets.”

At about the same time we learned that life is surging back into Florida’s all-important tourism sector.  Tourism in the state rose 5.1% in the third quarter—compared with a year earlier—and Sarasota reportedly had its best summer season ever.  Florida also saw a boost in tourism-related jobs, with an increase of 5.4%, or 51,400 new jobs, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

This increase in certain job sectors jibes with the latest report on Florida unemployment. Sarasota County’s October unemployment rate decreased significantly to 10.3% from 11% in September; and was down two full percentage points from last October’s 12.3%. Manatee County’s October rate dipped to 10.3% from September’s; and was down significantly from October 2010’s unemployment rate of 12.1%.

Newspapers are also reporting that the Florida Retail Federation is predicting that Christmas sales will increase from 3 to 3.5% in the Sunshine State—significantly better than the 2.8% gain forecast by its national counterpart.

Whether this predicted surge in holiday shopping happens—or not—is a tale waiting to be told.   The next three weeks will account for as much as 40% of a retailer’s annual take.  That’s why we were intrigued by one of those viral e-mails now making the rounds; this one espousing a new tradition in holiday shopping.

The message urges every shopper to think outside the gift box this holiday season. Small, locally-owned businesses and services have been especially hard hit by this greatest of all recessions.

Here are some “out of the gift box” suggestions that will help spread holiday cheer to more than just the usual retailers:

·         Who wouldn’t appreciate a gift certificate for a haircut, styling, manicure or pedicure?  There are plenty of locally-owned shops whose owners would be vastly relieved to start the New Year with so much guaranteed new business on their books.

·         Golf courses have been especially hard-hit by the recession.  Why not a round or two at a favorite course for the golfers in your life?

·         Southwest Florida has hundreds of small, independently-owned eateries, coffee shops and gourmet food stores of every variety and description, all offering gift certificates.  You can also have your holiday outings at these establishments.

·         What car owner with a pulse wouldn’t be delighted to receive a certificate for a free oil change, car wash or detailing from a local vendor?

·         Who wouldn’t enjoy the services of a good house cleaner, pressure washer, tree trimmer or yard man for a few hours after the holidays?

·         Of course, Southwest Florida’s legendary arts and cultural institutions need to sell tickets to keep the shows coming and to further burnish our reputation as Florida’s Cultural Capitol.

Once you adopt this line of thinking, there are scores of different ways to satisfy even the fussiest person on your gift list—without having to wrack your brain or watch the money you spend exit the community.  Of course, with so many basic human needs going unfulfilled as a direct result of the recession, a gift to a local charity in a loved one’s name will be one of the best holiday remembrances of this or any year.

At the end of the day, we’re all in charge of our own local recovery.  In real estate as in tourism, we’ve had to make necessary adjustments to bring these sectors of our economy back to life.  This holiday season, please let the buck stop here.  Shop locally to keep our retailers in the black and our employment sector in the pink.

  • User Gravatar Sandra Adkins-Pertz
    November 23rd, 2011

    Great article! I totally agree, we need to support our local businesses and show our deep appreciation to our communities.

    Thank you Michael for the wonderful suggestions!

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